I Slipped and Fell in a Store. What Are My Legal Options?
Every retailer has a legal obligation to ensure there are no safety hazards on their property that could cause visitors harm. Even though this should be a priority for retailers, some of them fail to fulfill this legal obligation.
Customers can slip and fall when hazards such as liquid spills, broken product fixtures, and uneven flooring are not taken care of immediately. Many slip and fall victims suffer serious injuries such as broken bones, head injuries, and spinal cord damage. Will these slip and fall victims be able to hold anyone legally accountable for their injuries? What should you do if you are injured in a slip and fall accident? Here’s what you should know:
Liability For Slip and Fall Accidents
The legal concept of premises liability comes into play when someone is injured in a slip and fall accident. This legal concept states that property owners must maintain safe conditions on their properties to ensure visitors are not harmed. The law states that if a property owner does not fulfill this legal obligation, they could be held liable for injuries that occur as a result of an unsafe condition on their property.
However, slip and fall victims should not assume that the property owner will automatically be held liable for their injuries. The property owner can only be held liable if their negligence directly led to the victim’s injuries. Basically, this means slip and victims must prove one of the following:
- The property owner or one of the employees was aware of the unsafe condition but failed to fix it in a timely manner.
- The property owner or one of the employees created the unsafe condition, but failed to fix it in a timely manner.
- No one knew about the unsafe condition, but the property owner should have known about it because a reasonable property owner would have.
For example, let’s say there was uneven flooring in one area of the store due to improperly installed tiles. The property owner knew about this issue, but did not do anything to fix it. One day, a customer comes into the store and trips over the uneven flooring. Since the property owner was aware of this hazard prior to the accident, they can be held liable for the victim’s injuries.
The Retailer vs. The Property Owner
Some retailers own their retail space, whereas others rent the space from the property owner. If a retailer does not own the property, both the retailer and the property owner could be held liable for slip and fall injuries. To determine who is liable, an attorney will need to figure out who knew about the hazard and who was responsible for fixing it.
Take another look at the uneven flooring example from above. It is typically the property owner’s responsibility to repair issues with the flooring. But, if the retailer never informed the property owner about the flooring issue, the retailer may be the only party that is liable for the victim’s injuries. If the landlord knew about the uneven flooring, but did not make an effort to fix it, the landlord would be liable for the victim’s injuries.
The retailer is solely responsible for hazards that are not related to the property or the building’s structure. For instance, if inventory is falling off of the shelves and making it difficult for customers to walk through the aisles, the retailer would be liable if someone trips. The property owner would not be responsible for ensuring that their tenant’s inventory is safely stored on shelves on a daily basis.
Every slip and fall case is unique, and determining who is liable for your injuries can be incredibly challenging. For this reason, it’s best to hire an attorney who knows how to prove liability in these complex cases.
What To Do After A Slip and Fall Accident
Your first priority after a slip and fall accident should be seeking medical attention for your injuries. If you are in need of emergency medical assistance, call 9-1-1 immediately. If not, it’s important to visit a doctor as soon as possible after leaving the scene of the accident.
It’s recommended that slip and fall victims also spend a few moments gathering evidence before leaving the scene of the accident. Take photos that clearly show the hazard that caused your fall. Be sure to also take photos of the scene from far away that prove there was no sign warning visitors of the hazard posted nearby. If anyone witnessed the fall, ask for their contact information. Their testimony could be used to support your personal injury case. Examine your surroundings so you can see if there are any surveillance cameras aimed in your direction. Take note of how many cameras there are and where they are aimed.
Since the fall occurred in a retail store, you should also make sure the store’s owner is aware of what happened. Many retailers ask people who are injured within their stores to fill out a brief form that explains what happened. Make sure you do this before leaving so the accident is documented.
Next, it’s time to find a personal injury attorney with experience representing slip and fall victims. It’s important to contact an attorney as soon as possible so they can start investigating the accident and gathering the evidence they need to prove liability. Crucial pieces of evidence such as surveillance footage may no longer exist if you wait too long to seek legal representation.
Have you been injured in a slip and fall accident? Contact Carpenter & Zuckerman today to schedule a free consultation with our team of knowledgeable personal injury lawyers. Our personal injury attorneys will fight tirelessly to recover the compensation you deserve.
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